Who Am I

So many agencies are focused on money. They are perennially in the growth phase. A never-ending cycle. How do you break this cycle? Well you have to go back to the beginning. Why did you start this business? What were you trying to accomplish? What makes you different?

Longevity is all about a plan and a brand. Do you have a brand identity? Figure this out first. This is where it starts. On the internet your brand has a value proposition that is displayed on your website. That statement is a reflection of your business, your agency. Does everyone in your agency know your VP (value proposition)? Can they recite your mission statement? If you have one and they don’t know it, it’s either too long or not displayed in the actions of the leaders. So I ask you, “Who are you?”

Start with answering this question first, then you are on your way to having an agency with long-term potential.

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Selling. Price vs Product

First let’s start with “selling”. When something is sold, you provided a product based on the buyer’s connection to that product. Did they connect on a “price” based need? Was it a service or coverage failure that connects them? To sell anything that is not based on what the client wants is short-sighted. As an insurance professional, it is our responsibility to listen and discern what will fit the client’s need. Everyone wants the best price, but are you providing the best value? It’s great to show how more coverage could benefit a client, but if they are not in position to sustain the coverage long term, who really benefits? Likewise, giving the lowest price just because it is the lowest can cause long term damage to your brand damage if you miss a coverage increase that is more costly but a better value.
So selling on price and selling on product knowledge/risk management should be equal, if you are selling based on need.

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End of the Year

Here is an email I sent to my team:

As we approach the end of another year it is important that each of us take time to reflect. Sure, we can look at the past 300+ days but I want us to take a deeper look, a longer look. What is the one thing we can be assured of no matter what year it is? Change. Life is about change. To be more accurate, life is about growth. From the moment we begin our life we begin to grow. And growth is never easy. Remember the first tooth you had to pull? It had to come out to make room for the newer and better teeth. Now as we mature our growth becomes less physical. Our growth is measured by choices and not by inches. Not by teeth lost but by lessons learned. We continue growing this way all our lives. So really life is not about change, life is about growing. Change occurs. It just happens. Growth on the other hand is more than just change. It is accepting and adapting to that change.

In a few more days we will be in 2011. We’ve discussed one of the changes coming to Texas that will start next week. This can be just a change for us or it can be something more. Remember changes will come, but life is not about change. Let’s not think 2011 is going to be a year of big changes for ABC Texas, rather let’s make it a year of unprecedented growth. Growth for us as a whole and each of us individually.

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Strong as Steel

When you are constructing a building, the materials you use determine the lifespan of that building. If it’s a house, traditionally it would be framed with wood. A high-rise would use reinforced steel. If you are building a strong relationship you would use positive reinforcement to frame that house.

You may have a solid foundation. But what you use to build on that foundation may not allow that relationship to last as long as it possibly could. Your building could be in a constant state of repair. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve on the relationship, just not the constant repairs. Why does there seem to be so may repairs? Well, we put holes in the structure of our relationships by the negative remarks we say to others.

As a society, as a people (human), we are taught on a subconscious level that negative is o.k. Take a look at the news. What is noted as being the most newsworthy. Usually it’s the negative: shootings, car accidents, car chasing, etc. The negative is more important than the positive. Wouldn’t it be nice if news programs told us of the positive things people in our community did rather than the atrocities man commits against man? Maybe if uplifting and strengthening stories pervaded the media then everyone’s focus would be on the good.

In our professional relationships it is important for all of us to realize how much influence we have on others in the work place, whether we are a supervisor or a subordinate. We must make the effort to build all these relationships with words and actions that will last. Remember we can either punch a hole in the wall or give it a fresh coat of paint. We can repair a damaged building with wood or we can strengthen it with steel. The choice is always ours.

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Tit vs Taught

We’ve all heard it. Some of us say it. We may even believe it. “I was born that way.” It is true that some of us have characteristics that are a part of our DNA. But most of who we are comes from experience. Whether they be our experience or observed. The “don’t ask don’t tell” law brings up an interesting point. We are asking individuals to exercise restraint in living the way that feels natural. But this doesn’t apply just to a gay person. This also applies to someone who cannot be faithful. They are drawn to multiple partners. Is this a learned experience? Or are they wired this way.
Your ability to contain/repress either of those feelings is in direct relation to your self-discipline. We read online of married politicians coming out of the closet. We see pro athletes having multiple indiscretions. They did what they did because it is their nature. They were able to control it (or not) because of nurture. Again, most of who we are comes from experience. We learn from the good and the bad. If it is better for someone to repress the “nature” of themselves, they will, if they have acquired the skill set to do so. If they have not, they could be a flaming queen or a Wilt Chamberlain wanna be. I am not judging either lifestyles. As Chris Rock once said, “I not saying I would do it…but I understand!”

When you are applying for a position consider what you bring to the position, good and bad. Remember techniques can be taught. Bad habits can be corrected. None of us were “born that way.” If you are hiring and you see potential then they can be trained. Take in to consideration your ability to nurture. Consider the time you can invest. Remember, you can’t change what came from the tit, but you can correct what you were taught.

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Manage This!

I’ve had a lot of managers. Some were good. Some were not so good. I learned from them all (That’s the thing – we are all teachers, but are we aware of what we are teaching). They all taught me (directly and indirectly) in order to be a good manager you have to care about what you manage. It cannot be based on money. Your income is a by-product of a successful job done. If you are managing a warehouse, you have to care about how that warehouse looks, care if the shipments get out in a timely manner. You have to have a sense of pride. If you manage people, you have to care about them. It cannot be a broad stroke. You (I have said “you” but I will say “we” because I must do this as well) have to care about the individual. Our responsibilities in insurance involve Errors and Omissions, policy count, etc. But we must make caring for the person a priority. If we demonstrate we care about our agent’s success, they will have a greater chance for success. By this I mean: many managers focus too much on telling the employees what they are doing wrong, instead they should be helping the employee to do was is right. This involves training. Employees need training and so do managers. Employees need to be trained with how to deal with people and we must be trained on how to treat employees. If we don’t invest time in learning how to build strong relationships, then the ones we do have will be fragile and fake. And that’s hard to manage.

Never forget a manager is there to support those on the front line. A manager is there to provide the tools they need to be successful.

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